Survival didn't seem like a real issue for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team when it had a 21-point lead Monday night. But when it was a two-point game in the closing minutes, survive is what the Lady Mocs had to do.
In the College of Charleston's final visit to McKenzie Arena as a member of the Southern Conference, UTC held on for a 64-53 win. Ashlen Dewart capped the closing surge with a putback of her own missed free throw as time expired, giving her a game-high 26 points.
"The team said it looked like I [missed the free throw] on purpose, but I really didn't," said Dewart, who also had eight rebounds.
"It got a little scary there down the stretch, but again, when we had to have it some people stepped up," UTC coach Wes Moore said.
Dewart scored seven points in the final 2:53 for UTC (12-3, 5-1), while Kayla Christopher made six straight free throws. Christopher was 8-for-8 from the line and totaled 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
"I'm real proud of us for sticking to it, and I think we made big plays when we had to," Christopher said.
The Lady Mocs' 20th consecutive win at the Roundhouse made them 15-3 all-time against the Cougars at home. The College of Charleston (7-7, 3-2) is moving to the Colonial Athletic Association this summer.
The Cougars' best moment at McKenzie came in 2009, when they upset UTC in the semifinals of the SoCon tournament.
For much of the game, there appeared little chance of an upset. After leading 35-17 at halftime, UTC pushed its advantage to 21 a couple of times early in the second half. Nothing came easy after that.
UTC made 7 of 24 second-half field-goal tries while turning the ball over eight times. The Cougars, meanwhile, started making shots and playing tight defense.
After Christy Hewatt scored inside with 3:35 to play, UTC's lead was down to 51-49. Dewart hit two free throws to make it a two-possession game, and then UTC converted on a critical possession.
It began with a Taylor Hall steal and a missed 3-pointer. A Kylie Lambert offensive rebound kept the possession going, and Dewart scored with a short bank shot. It was UTC's first field goal in more than 11 minutes.
The Lady Mocs hit the road this weekend, starting with a game Friday at Davidson.